ELBERTON – Commerce couldn't overcome the affects of three lost fumbles Friday (Sept. 10) night at Elbert County.
The Tigers lost 27-13 with 13 of the Blue Devils points coming off of turnovers. The giveaways negated a 172-yard night from running backs Malachi Shockey and Dreylan Martin.
"We've got to value the ball more," said head coach Mark Hollars. "No team is good enough to turn the ball over the way we are right now. We're putting the ball on the ground too much. The kids are battling, the kids' attitudes have been great, the kids are fighters. I'm proud of them.
Commerce's (1-2, 0-0 Region 8-A Public) first fumble ended an opening drive filled with penalties. The Blue Devils took over at the Tigers' 22-yard line and cruised down to the goal line with a 20-yard run down the Elbert County sideline. They punched the ball into the end zone two plays later to score the first touchdown six minutes into the game. The extra point was no good, holding the score at 6-0.
After a Commerce three-and-out, Elbert County (1-1, 0-0 Region 8-AA) extended its lead to 13-0 with a 42-yard touchdown pass with 3:06 left in the first quarter.
The Tigers finally made a big play early in the second quarter when Jackson Morris intercepted a pass and ran 62 yards down the Blue Devils' sideline. Elbert County stopped him a yard short of the goal line, but Martin pushed his way into the end zone a play later to cut the score to 13-7 with 8:03 left in until halftime.
Before Commerce could attempt to take the lead, Elbert County marched 63 yards on its ensuing possession to extend the lead to 20-7. The Blue Devils reached the end zone with a 12-yard between the tackles with 4:19 left in the second quarter.
The Tigers finally flipped the momentum with an interception by Landon Worley early in the third quarter. Commerce went to work at its own 27-yard line and marched into Elbert County territory on the legs of Martin and Shockey. However, quarterback Trey Garnto fumbled a snap at the 34-yard line and the Blue Devils recovered. The Tiger defense forced a three-and-out and regained possession at their own 36-yard line, but another fumble by Garnto gave the ball back to Elbert County 26 yards away from the end zone.
Elbert County needed just four plays to reach paydirt and extend its lead to 27-7 with 10:46 left in regulation. Commerce finally reached the end zone with a short run by Shockey with 1:14 left in regulation. The Tigers trailed 27-14 and attempted an onside kick, but the ball bounced out of bounds. Elbert County took over and drained the remaining 70 seconds to defeat Commerce.
"Kids are fighting their tails off," Hollars said. "They're really fighting, some young kids are growing up. Offensively, we've gotten better, it's not showing up with points, but we were a lot more physical than we've been. We've got to get disciplined, and execute and really value the ball."
Commerce is off next week and will return to action at home on September 24 against Mt. Paran Christian.